There is little doubt about the PlayStation 3 as a superior gaming console, both in terms of quality and power. While Sony was hard at work creating a mean gaming and multimedia machine, unfortunately the rest of the company didn’t get the memo. There is little doubt in Sony’s lack of proper marketing for the console and its challenges with embracing online gaming. Sony promised that things would be different and this time around, they did right by their words. When the PlayStation Vita was announced, it was hailed and championed by gamers and developers alike. A fresh UI and all the power you could want. Yes the PlayStation Vita has not done the sales that it should and can still do but the fact is that Sony’s tempo was different this time around. Now, on the verge of Microsoft’s next Xbox console, Sony continues to show signs of a new life and energy behind the long time console maker.
The PlayStation 4 was announced on February 20th to much fanfare. Unlike past console reveals where the latest PlayStation was shown off in Japan with many Japanese devs backing the console, this time around, the PS4 was shown off in the US. While there were your traditional Japanese developers like Capcom and Square Enix, the main focus of the event was games developed by Western companies like Activision, Blizzard, Bungie, Sucker Punch, and Guerrilla Games to name a few. While the console itself was not shown during the event, it became evident early on that, this time around, Sony had gone to developers and asked them what they wanted in a next gen console. In iterations prior, Sony and other console makers have created new hardware with a top down approach.
To many gamers’ and media vets’ surprise, there was little leaked about the event and there continues to be little information about the PS4 until Sony releases it. This by itself is a huge change of pace for Sony whose products tend to be revealed in advance thanks to leaks. For Sony, this has proved to be a powerful asset as they can control the excitement around the PS4. In fact, for many months, prior to the PS4 reveal, many high level Sony execs had gone on record about no new console in sight, leading many to believe that the PS4 might not debut till 2014. Some have even suggested that these comments were more directed towards Microsoft and the reason why MS has had nothing to announce about their next generation console till weeks before E3.
If you love gaming but have found yourself in situations where your audio has intruded upon those around you, then the PlayStation Pulse headset is your savior. Compatible with the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, the Pulse wireless stereo headset gives gamers everything they could want from a headset that features comfortable design, BassImpact for extra…well bass and a built in noise canceling microphone to satisfy the commander in you while gaming online. Unlike previous headsets from Sony and competitors that feature a retractible mic, the Pulse mic is built into the unit, giving it a sleeker design while housing one less external part that can break. Thanks to three sliding switches on the headset, you can also control the incoming volume, mic level, and bass. A quick mute button is also available, making it easy for you to converse with those around you without bugging your teammates.
Other benefits from the Pulse headset include on-screen headset updates like battery level and other related information that will appear right on your screen. Sony has also provided a mode functionality button that, when pressed, allows you to select between different audio presets, designed for general gaming, shooters, racing, movies, music, and more. Maybe best of all, for those who simply cannot afford a extensive surround sound setup or for the time when you want to continue to game without waking others in the household, the PlayStation Pulse includes virtual 7.1 surround sound. This lets you hear every audio cue that sound engineers put into the game. The 7.1 surround sound can also be a savior for hardcore gamers, by alerting them to sound from enemies that might be creeping from behind.
One of the staples of the PlayStation 4 will be the new ‘Share’ button, found on the new DualShock 4 controller. The new button is designed to give gamers more social features like posting to Twitter and Facebook, and uploading video gameplay directly to YouTube. With the explosion of social media and gameplay streaming on sites like Twitch.tv and uStream (which is the service Sony will be using), it came off as a no brainer for Sony to make the PS4 more social from its core up. As a gamer himself, Shuhei Yoshida, Sony’s Worldwide Studios President spoke about the importance of the ‘share’ feature:
I wanted to play Dark Souls all day long, but I couldn’t do that because I was too busy. So instead I would watch people playing it live on Niconico (a popular Japanese video sharing site) whenever I had some spare time
However, it now seems that there might be one large caveat with it.
For those of you who read my last editorial, this next one might seem a bit confusing. And while yes, I certainly do think the Playstation Store loading time is WAAAAAYYYYYYYY TOOOOOOO LLOONNNGGGGGGGG, what lies behind the spinning circle of loading time agony is a poorly-organized gold mine. The Playstation Store has a plethora of various exclusive titles that are available to download, and as I have very recently begun to get over my aversion to digital games, I have found some amazing ones that I’ve loved playing.
I am a gamer and also a collector, so purchasing a game digitally is not my first choice. I also don’t particularly like the idea of spending 60.00 on downloading a newly-released game when for the exact same price I can get a disc, and the case for my display wall, and probably a steelbook or DLC or pre-order bonus. However, the budding love I have for PSN comes from the strictly digital PSN games, and there are a couple reasons why my love is growing.
1. They are unique
Games like Journey or The Unfinished Swan are not just games; they’re experiences. There’s something special about them that wouldn’t quite work the same if it needed to be “worth” what a full-priced title is. The shorter play time, or lack of multiplayer, or simplicity of design in these is something only successful through a platform like PSN. Something like The Walking Dead game came out episodically - again, something that only could succeed through the digital world, and an approach that drew you in and left you wanting more. And while games like Rainbow Moon or Dragon Fantasy Book 1 are not necessarily unique in a historical sense, they are unique in today’s market. Old school RPG style games are not common anymore, and still having a source to play new iterations of this theme is refreshing.
One of the problems of being a large entity like Sony that operates in all the different regions of the world with separate headquarters and management systems is that they can says things that don’t line up with the corporate strategy. In fact, it’s only been in the last month that a Sony exec accidentally leaked the existence of Gran Turismo 6 for the PS3. Now Sony’s Middle East general manager is the latest to make some head scratching statements when speaking about the PlayStation 4 and believes that
the PS4 is ‘not a successor’ to the PS3.
Wait, what? The PlayStation 4 is not the successor the PlayStation 3? Lets talk, after the jump.
The flurry of rumors surrounding the Playstation 4 and NextBox announcements for the incoming new generation of consoles are in full force. Things have escalated as of late, however, with whispers spreading that the upcoming XBox console will be required to be always on in terms of internet connectivity for firing up games and apps. The issue was exacerbated a couple days ago when Microsoft’s Creative Director Adam Orth not only did not deny these rumors, but defended them, and told Twitter to #dealwithit.
Now all rumors that “these rumors are fake to hype up the Microsoft announcement” aside, I’m going to tell you why the idea of an ‘always on’ console really turns me off.
1. Not everyone has a reliable internet connection
I live on an island on the East Coast of Canada. It’s windy, and snowy, and the majority of the island is populated by moose and tiny little towns that literally still do not have an internet connection. If a console requires an always on connection, I’m guaranteed to not be able to use it probably 25% of the time I want to use it. Weather and location regularly at least interrupt the internet for ~5 minutes. Cyrus says it best: Technology should make it easier to play games. Not more difficult.
The rumor is you get three minutes to fix your internet before the Xbox kicks you off and you lose your game. That has “rage induced blackouts and broken controllers and televisions” written all over it. I understand what Microsoft could be going for if this rumor is true – like Sony, they want everyone to be connected. But it’s the wrong approach to it.
Sony, on the other hand, comes at the internet and connectivity aspect in gaming in a different, and already more successful way. By focusing more on social connection and sharing vs. technological “progress”, the Playstation 4 can have the best of both worlds – connecting gamers with other gamers, and maintaining usability in any internet down time.
It’s no secret that developers have been extremely happy with the PlayStation 4 with many being quite vocal about it. Unlike the PS3 which housed an internal processor (the Cell) which was mastered by Sony’s internal studios like Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us) and Sony Santa Monica Studios (God of War) and not 3rd party companies, the PS4 instead provides a computer CPU and graphic engine. This will allow for developers to get a better handle on the PS4 from the start while the inclusion of 8GB of super-fast GDDR5 unified memory will allow the system to do things not possible before. The latest developer to give his full support for the PS4 is David Cage who released the ground breaking Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Soul this Fall.